At the beginning of the third article in the "Learn to Participate" series, I stated the following: "The gap between the ability to just explain and the ability to explain well is as wide as the gap between the image of an authoritative, stubborn, aggressive, and inhuman China and that of a progressive, reasonable, normal, and gradually more humane China." Well, that is about speaking in front of others and about thinking on your feet. As I have pointed out in yesterday's article, different writings can have the same kind of drastically different effects. An intelligent person can give others a rather dumb impression with badly written essays while an average student can stand out among her peers with good writings. Again, here is my story: Following Jeff's instructions on my writing, I was addicted to getting help from my American classmates, especially from those who are excellent writers with enormous patience such as Noah, Lisa, and Paul. Sometimes, I spent my whole weekend in their apartment studying and playing with them just so whenever they had time, they could look at my essays. They did exactly what Jeff had done to my writing. I loved the way they taught me as I had never been trained in writing in such a fashion before. And the training was paying off my efforts too. During the semester that I was the only Chinese within my Department without an assistantship (read The American Sensitivity), I had to wait tables on both Saturdays and Sundays in an extremely busy restaurant. So naturally, I could hardly finish the heavy readings required by some of the courses. One course required reading three thick theoretical books in economics, sociology, and political science, and an additional one filled with personal interviews and social investigation. They were so difficult that even Americans were complaining. Meanwhile, the professor was known for his toughness in grading his students. Soon, two of my Chinese classmates dropped out. My situation looked even worse as I could barely finish half of the readings even though I was trying my best. However, for whatever amount of reading I had finished, I was able to write relatively well-organized and convincing papers, which made our professor very happy as he must have had too much headache with essays of most Chinese students. Amazingly, I passed! Later, whenever I wanted to show appreciation to my American classmates who helped me with my writings, I always joked: "I don't think I should thank you guys, but professor H should because you have taken a lot of headache from him by helping me." Some of those who didn't get an "A" joked back saying: "Oh, I wish I were a Chinese student." Interviewing, discussing issues in public, doing presentation, or thinking on your feet require tremendous experience and practice. Before you have many opportunities to do it, writing is probably the best way to build your communication skills. It helps you enormously in school application, visa obtainment, work, personal relationship, and eventually success and happiness. So practice it!


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